Training and Development: Critical Incident Interview Guide
Introduction and Purpose
Work is performed by employees. Sometimes the decisions and actions performed at work result in "critical incidents" which may be either a success or a failure. This interview technique is used to help identify the specific actions (behaviours), decisions, and information which led to the critical incident. Describe the purpose of the interview. "We want to learn more about how you make decisions in your job. Take as much time as needed to respond thoroughly and accurately."
Ask probing questions. Don't ask "Yes or No" questions.
Have the employee discuss difficult decisions that they have to make on their job. These are decisions that may have or would likely have resulted in the success or an error of some critical incident. It is important that they focus their discussion on the incident and what led to it. Try to avoid discussions about management or resources in general.
For each incident identified, describe the timeline of events that led to that incident. Describe the incident from start to finish. Re-construct the events to form a timeline that establishes the sequence of each event.
Ask for clarification and explanation and follow-up questions.
Identify Decision Points
Identify specific decision points on the timeline.
Decision Point Analysis
For each decision point, consider the following:
- Errors If an error occurred, what was it?
- Optimal How should the decision have been made?
- Ambiguous What information could have helped make the decision. Was any information missing?
- Error Avoidance Could the error have been avoided? If so, how?
- Environmental Factors What aspects of your environment influenced your decision?
- Expert / Novice Do (or would) experts and novices differ in their decision making?
- Information What information was used in making the decision? How was it obtained?
- Training Others If you were training new employees, what would you teach them about this kind of incident?
- Information is gathered directly from the employees
- Can follow-up on statements
- Can interview multiple employees about the same incident for a more complete perspective
- Has been used extensively since the mid 1900's
- Subject to the interpretation of employees
- Needs to be conducted shortly after a critical incident occurs
- Memory about an incident may be biased or fallable
- Some employees may be reluctant to talk about certain incidents